When developer/investment firm CIM Group announced it has reached a deal to purchase Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, there was significant community concern, according to the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, which held a virtual Town Hall on the subject.

“CIM typically uses public pension funds to do their projects,” said Coalition Executive Director Damien Goodmon. “Public dollars are being spent by corporations that are doing harm to the public. Escrow has not closed on the property and we’re pretty confident that we can unwind the deal.”

The coalition, recognized as an anti-gentrification group, held the community forum along with the Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance,; Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles; KRST Unity Center; the African-American Cultural Center (US); and Fannie Lou Hamer Institute.The Coalition is joining with the Vermont Slauson Community Development Corporation to create “Downtown Crenshaw” with the hopes of taking control of the project.

The sale to CIM is not yet final, but the previous owners, Capri, had planned to redevelop the site and include a mix of residential and commercial space. That plan wasn’t a hit with community leaders, either.

Redevelopment plans for the site were approved by the city two years ago. CIM Group’s decision to scrap the residential project did not sit well with City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who told the Los Angeles Times it “demonstrates an uninformed, ahistorical and premature analysis” that overlooks “hours of hearings, legal proceedings and other community involvement.”

Goodmon, who legally challenged Capri’s redevelopment plan in Superior Court, is excited to be a part of a group that plans to launch an acquisition fund for the site.

“We need to bring in the types of businesses that serve our needs,” Goodmon said. “There are ways in which you can get the community the desires it wants, without pricing out existing residents.”

Goodmon believes the CIM sale would spell gentrification for the neighborhood.

“We have to preserve housing so it’s affordable for us and protect the cultural integrity of the community,” Goodmon said. “We have to recognize that that’s the most important thing. If we don’t get on top of this issue, Black LA will become Black Moreno Valley, because we will all be pushed out there.”

The mall has been a centerpoint for the local Black community for decades and is situated on more than 40 acres.

“Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza occupies a pivotal location in a well-established Los Angeles community, centrally located and adjacent to a soon-to-open Metro light rail station,” CIM Group principal and co-founder Shaul Kuba said in a statement. “Two large anchors, Sears and Walmart, closed their doors prior to COVID-19’s shuttering the entire mall, and 300,000 square feet of space in these two large buildings continue to remain vacant.

“We have the opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to the future of the property viewed through the lens of the current climate and the acceleration of the already declining retail environment,” Kuba said. “Since 1947, this property has been a commercial property, and although current entitlements allow residential components, we believe that residential uses are not suitable for this property and it should remain a commercial property in our repositioning.”

For more information on the community efforts, visit https://www.downtowncrenshaw.com